The end of May ushers in the long-awaited warm season, and I suddenly have so many preoccupations. There are the upsides: Where can I go swimming? How can I get myself invited to BBQs? The downside? Mosquitoes. They always seem to find me, and I spend a lot of the season covered in itchy welts. So, why me?
Well, there are a number of ideas about how mosquitoes choose their victims. According to scientists in the UK, mosquitoes might be repelled by a chemical the body emits when it’s stressed. (Upside: You might be stressed but your skin is unblemished!) There are a handful of odors present in people the bugs prefer not to, ahem, bug (some assumed to be related to stress) and researchers are hoping to synthesize those chemicals to create a natural, highly effective repellent.
Others have suggested that blood type may play a role. Blood-type markers are also chemicals emitted by the body, and they are believed to be more prominently secreted by people with type O blood. (Making those people more vulnerable to bites, simply because they’re sending out blood-related signals to the mosquito world.) Pregnancy can also attract mosquitoes because pregnant women exhale more carbon dioxide, an element mosquitoes are fond of. Drinking alcohol (guilty!) can raise body temperature, which also makes a bite-ee more attractive.
Body chemistry is very important when it comes to attracting or repelling mosquitoes and some scientists estimate that up to 85 percent of that chemistry is fixed. (What I got from my mother: wanderlust, a near-obsession with eating, a near-religious belief in buying quality footwear, and a standing invitation for mosquitoes.) In particular, mosquitoes love uric acid, steroids and cholesterol, all of which can be secreted by the skin and detected by the insects from a 50-metre distance.
With increasing concern about the transmission of serious illness through their bites (Remember that West Nile scare? Not to mention the near-global concern about malaria?) it’s even more important to keep those little bloodsuckers at bay. So what’s a girl to do? When it comes to body chemistry, much is out of our hands. You can try to limit stress, steroids and alcohol, but if you’re type O, then that’s your lot. So, if you’re heading out into the woods consider a more gentle, natural repellent instead of loading up on chemicals. Neem oil (which is used in Mexico and India) is a great natural solution and can be applied directly to the skin.